Chipped teeth are more than a cosmetic problem – a chipped tooth can cause pain, swelling and hypersensitivity to temperatures. A chipped tooth might also cause no pain if it is not large enough to expose the nerves inside the tooth. Knowing what to do after you chip a tooth can help you avoid any further damage, complications and broken tooth pain. If the chip in the tooth is big enough to expose the nerves, you will feel increased sensitivity when chewing or when the chipped tooth is exposed to very hot or very cold food and beverages.
Whether your chipped tooth is painful or not, it should be examined by a dental professional experienced with restorative dentistry.
While the enamel that covers the outer portion of your teeth is one of the strongest substances in the human body, it does have its limits. A forceful blow to the mouth, biting down on a hard object, or a fall can break the enamel and leave you with a chipped tooth.
Chipping away the enamel in this way can potentially expose the dentin, which is a layer of sensitive tissue that communicates with the nerve of the tooth. The exposed dentin can cause pain, especially when you eat or drink something hot or cold. A chipped tooth can also expose the nerve itself to cause significant pain.
A chipped tooth often has jagged edges that can irritate your tongue and cheek. Food can also build up in and around the jagged edge of a chipped tooth, and this can lead to tooth decay.
Common causes of chipped teeth
Physical trauma – a hard hit to the face or mouth can chip a tooth; front teeth are particularly susceptible to chipping as the result of physical trauma
Teeth grinding – also known as bruxism, grinding your teeth excessively can weaken and eventually break enamel, particularly in the molars at the back of your mouth
Biting down on hard foods – biting into a hard food can chip your front teeth, while chewing ice can chip your molars
Weakened enamel – thinning or damage can weaken enamel, which leaves a tooth vulnerable to chipping; eating acidic foods, aging, eating disorders, and tooth decay can weaken your tooth enamel and increase your risk of chipped teeth
Solutions for chipped teeth
Treatment for a chipped tooth depends largely on the severity and location of the damage. Your dentist might be able to simply smooth out a slight chip in your enamel so that the rough portion does not irritate your cheek or tongue. A large chip or tooth fracture may require treatment that is more extensive. Teeth at the back of your mouth may require different treatment than the teeth at the front of your mouth that are visible when you smile and talk.
Dentists use dental filling to repair chips in molars; the filling material is tough and resistant enough to withstand the pressures of chewing.
Dental bonding, or tooth bonding, is a great solution for minor chips that affect your smile. Your dentist will bond a tooth-colored filling material, known as dental resin, to the chipped tooth so that it looks like your own enamel. Your dental health professional can also sculpt the dental resin so that it has the same shape and size of your natural tooth. Modern dental bonding materials provide a nearly infinite number of color matches, so the repair is nearly invisible.
Veneers are thin porcelain wafers that cover the front part of your tooth to provide a smooth, natural look. Your dentist may recommend veneers if your dental bonding has cracked repeatedly in the past, or if you want to improve the color and shape of the chipped incisor at the front of your mouth. Veneers can change your smile.
Dental onlays are a type of pre-molded tooth restorations that fit over the surface of your chipped tooth. Dentists use dental onlays to repair extensive damage affecting the tips of teeth, the biting surface of teeth and cusps, which is the pointy part of a molar. Your dentist might recommend a dental onlay if your chipped tooth has a weak structure that would crack if treated with a regular dental filling or other treatment.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.